Can we believe it's been almost six years since you were re-making me into a mother? And now you are the big girl helping to make smooth the arrival of the third born.
When Jack came along, you were not yet two years old. You practiced with a baby doll, but did not understand the change your brother brought to our lives. He was so needy, and so were you, in many ways. There were times I pushed you away, out of exhaustion, out of frustration, out of a desperate need for you to not wake the baby. And you cried on the other side of the door, and I cried looking at you shut out and wondered how I could ever make it up to you. There were times you needed me, and I wasn't there. Days and nights I had nothing left to give. And I prayed for grace to fill the gaps I could not stretch to bridge.
I wonder sometimes, did you hold it against me? Is there something in you, even now, that cries out against the voice I raised, the arms I stretched to shoo you away? I wish there had been two of me, or more of me, and I could have rocked you both to sleep.
But now, my darling, you are nearly six, and thrilled at the prospect of this new baby - though prospect and reality will soon clash, I'm sure. You sing to the little life, say "good morning baby" and "I love you baby," and you are brimming with ideas for its care and keeping.
What's more, you have been taking care of me. You see my growing tiredness, and are quick to come to my aid. You have prepared bed and couch for my rest, complete with all the little things you think I may need - books and pens and a glass of water and carefully turned down blanket. (You know me well.) Your generosity has left me humbled, delighted. Just where this kindness has come from, I do not know.
I have done my best to love and care for you, but I know I have fallen short. I know I am no shining example some days. I can only hope the light of Love, that I reflect imperfectly, is warming the places I cannot reach.
Arden - your name means eager, shining, ardent one. I have prayed your name over and over, as thanksgiving, as blessing, as petition. There have been times I have dampened your spirit and snuffed out your flame when I should have coaxed it into life. Nevertheless, six years on, you are shining bright. The flame is in your eyes and in your kindnesses and in the way you show what love is made of. And you will kindle fires wherever you go. You are already warming our family. You are already making us laugh in your light. You are already bringing something more than I alone have given. This is grace, and wonder, and joy, that love can expand beyond the kindling we offer.
You were the first to make me a mother, and in your forge I have been reshaped. You will keep shaping me even as I shape you. Oh, we will rub each other the wrong way, but let us keep close for all that. Let us keep learning love together. The sparks may fly upward, but a greater flame shall warm us.
Now, as our lives are about to shift once more, and we must make room for another, remember this - when my hands are full you are still and always welcome in my heart.